Repatriation Following a Death
Repatriation following a death is the process of returning someones body (or ashes) to the United Kingdom after (s)he has died in a foreign country.
Repatriation can be an incredibly confusing process as you must work within different countries and different languages but there are supports in place to help you bring your loved one home. In fact, in the event of repatriation following a death, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK and the British Consul in the area of the death will both be able to help you navigate the process.
Dealing with a Death Abroad
If you were traveling with the deceased, you will be involved in the process of repatriation and will most likely be the person to take charge of the body.
If you are on a tour or package holiday, a representative of the company will most likely contact the relevant authorities, including the British Consulate, for you. The British Consulate, in turn, will be able to walk you through the practical aspects of repatriation including working with local authorities, contacting funeral directors and funeral homes, and booking transportation home for both you and the body of the deceased.
An important part of working with local authorities will be to register the death in the country where your loved one died. This means that a death certificate from that country will be issued and may need to be translated into English. The British Consulate should be able to help you with registering the death and any translation or certification services you may need. You may also be able to register the death with the British Consulate and have a UK death certificate issued as well. This means that a record will be made for your loved one in the General Registry Office (GRO) Overseas Registration section. To register the death you will need the deceased’s full name, birth date, passport information (including when and where it was issued and the passport number), and information on next of kin. However, this may not be done in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa or Zimbabwe.
Returning Home with the Deceased
Returning home with the body of the deceased will require having it embalmed and then secured in a zinc-lined coffin. The British Consulate should be able to put you in touch with funeral directors in the country who will be able to prepare the body in this way. You will also need to carry a certified English translate of the death certificate, written authorisation from local authorities to remove the body, and a certificate of embalming. The cost of repatriating the body may be covered by one of your insurance plans, but if it is not then you will not cover the cost yourself. Depending on the circumstances of the deceased’s estate, these costs may be reimbursed later.
Once you arrive home with the deceased, you will need to arrange for a funeral within the United Kingdom. To do this you will need to bring the certified English translation of the death certificate to the registered office or registrar in the area in which you hope to hold the funeral. Formal certificates will then be issued by this office and the funeral will be able to proceed.
You may choose to conduct the funeral and cremation abroad if you lived in the country or logistically it is easier. Returning home with the ashes of your loved one is easier than arranging for the body to be flown back. Again, the British Consulate and foreign embassies in the country of death will be able to help and advise funeral directors to help you do this.
Transporting Ashes Overseas
When it comes to transporting ashes overseas, as long as you have the correct paperwork you are free to take ashes onto a plane in most countries around the world. You will need documentation of proof of death and also a cremation. There are services that will facilitate the transport of ashes for you, handling all of the documents and transport if you do not wish to carry them yourself or if you are sending them to a third party.
Repatriation following a death is a confusing, emotional process. In the UK the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can offer more information on repatriating a body, while the British Consulate in the location of the death will also be helpful in arranging for your loved one to return home.